By Alessandro Mastroluca

  • Sofia Kenin upset Garbiñe Muguruza to seal her maiden major title
  • In the junior girls’ singles, the 14-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva became the first Grand Slam champion from Andorra
  • The top seed Harold Mayot beat his friend André Cazaux in the all-French junior boys’ final
MELBOURNE, Australia – Sofia Kenin came back after losing the first set to became the 18th American champion in Melbourne in the Open Era

 

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Sofia Kenin [14] b. Garbiñe Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2

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Sofia Kenin became the 12th player to win her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. The young American hit 23 winners to Garbine Muguruza‘s 45, competing in Melbourne for the third time just like Martina Hingis in 1997.

At 21 years and 80 days old, Kenin was the youngest Australian Open finalist since 2008 when Maria Sharapova defeated Ana Ivanovic. She played a solid, consistent match against the error-prone Spaniard. The American covered the court quickly and used flat down-the-line backhands to switch the momentum from the second set. Quicker and more energetic, she saved three consecutive break points at 2-2 0-40 in the decider, hitting three straight winners. In hindsight, that became the key moment of the final.

Kenin became the 18th American champion in the tournament’s history in the Open era. The fast-moving American will break into the Top 10, climbing to No.7 and overtaking current US No.1 Serena Williams. She is set to become the youngest American woman to make her Top 10 debut since 1999.

Muguruza failed to be the third player – male or female – to win each of her first three major titles on a different surface, after Serena Williams and Hana Mandlikova. The Spaniard, the lowest-ranked finalist here since unranked Henin in 2010, will return to the Top 20 by virtue of reaching the final, climbing to No.16.

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Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva [9] b. Weronika Baszak 5-7 6-2 6-2

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The 14-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva became the first player from Andorra to win a Grand Slam title. In the junior girls’ singles final, she came back to defeat Polish Weronika Baszak. She did not have an easy path to the title. The Barcelona-based champion saved three match points in her third-round win over rising Italian Melania Delai, and recovered from a slow start to upset American second seed Robin Montgomery, the reigning Orange Bowl in the quarter-finals.

The lefty Jimenez, the youngest player in the draw, trained and studied at the academy owned by her father, the former ATP player Joan who never broke into the Top 500. Inspired by her idols Rafael Nadal and Petra Kvitova,  Jimenez Kasintseva climbed last year to No.18 in the ITF rankings. Throughout the tournament, she displayed an unusual fighting spirit for a player of her age and it brought her to a historic triumph.

 

Harold Mayot [1] b. Andre Cazaux [5] 6-4 6-1

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In the junior boys’ singles final, the Frenchman Harold Mayot lived up to his No.1 seed and beat his compatriot, longtime friend and doubles partner André Cazaux, inspired by watching Nadal when he was a child. He avenged his defeat in the semifinals at the Copa Barranquilla two years ago when he had to retire trailing 4-6 6-3 4-0. He’s the 18th French junior champion at Grand Slam stage, the fifth in Melbourne.

Mayot, the first French player to win the junior title here since Alexandre Sidorenko in 2006, looked more solid from the beginning of the final moved on an indoor Rod Laver Arena because of the rain that forced the organisers to cancel the matches on the outside courts.

Mayot, who trained with Gael Monfils here, will move to the top of the ITF rankings. His coach Thierry Tulasne cried tears of joy when Mayot sealed his victory as Cazaux netted his final volley. The No.5 seed, too often inaccurate off the forehand side when Mayot put him under pressure, committed 21 unforced errors.

The 2020 Australian Open junior champion, who never faced a break-point during the final, plans to compete on the professional tour this year. Based at the Pôle France in Poitiers, he’s a passionate competitor with a solid, all-court game. Consistent from the baseline, he can return well and change the pace in the rally thanks to his vision and his powerful forehand. Solidly built, he has an identifiable style and a revelatory tattoo on his torso: “Forgive but never forget”.

 

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